NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 15, 2013

Mayor sends proposed budget to City Council

Spending plan includes cost-of-living increases for city employees

BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
STAFF WRITER

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Mayor Donna Holaday Monday night presented a draft of the municipal budget for FY2014 to the City Council that totals $53,977,464 in expenditures.

The operating budget represents a 4.77 percent increase over last year’s budget, excluding debt service. The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. City councilors will review the document in coming weeks.

The councilors have scheduled public hearings at City Hall for different portions of the proposed spending plan for May 23, 29, 30, June 3 and June 5, according to city officials.

The mayor said that one of the goals of the document is to maintain a level services budget while identifying opportunities “to improve service delivery efficiency and effectiveness.” Another goal is to provide cost-of-living increases for city employees through the collective bargaining process — the first adjustments in several years.

Holaday said the document includes items that invest in the city’s infrastructure and pay financial attention to the city’s ongoing capital needs.

“I am pleased to once again submit a balanced budget that does not include an appropriation of either free cash or stabilization funds,” she wrote in a message to the City Council.

The mayor noted that the water, sewer and harbormaster funds are established as enterprise accounts separate from the general fund. The fund for water and sewer increased 24 percent and the sewer fund increased 20 percent as a result of a new water treatment plant ($18.75 million) and new wastewater treatment plant ($32.5 million). Both projects are funded by user revenues and are about 80 percent finished.

The city is counting on about $400,000 in new growth revenue, which would include property tax receipts from 24 homes in the new Oleo Woods subdivision. Also, local option taxes and paid parking will continue to have positive impacts on revenue collections, Holaday said.

The tax rate for FY 2013 is $13.32 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for both residential and commercial property, according to municipal leaders. The average property tax bill increased by $139.11 from $5,698.89 to $5,838. The increase is mitigated as a result of the average single-home value decreasing from $445,226 to $438,272, city officials said.

The proposed budget’s expenditure of $53,977,464, balanced by non-tax levy revenues totaling $7,522,818, calls for an estimated tax levy of $46,851,095.

Of that figure, $2,666,654 will fund the debt exclusion for the high school renovation, the public library improvements, development of a new Bresnahan Elementary School, renovations of the Nock/Molin School and development of a new senior/community center, officials have said.